As Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
The NFL has taken issue with statistics provided by the NFL Players Association regarding offseason program injuries, indirectly characterizing them as lies and/or damned lies.
In a memo sent to all teams on Wednesday, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the NFL says of the union’s claim that the lack of an offseason program resulted in significantly decreased injuries last season, “Simply put, this claim is inaccurate and misleading.”
The memo takes issue with four claims made by the union. First, as to the notion that there was a “23% decrease in missed time injuries last year,” the NFL claims that this measurement doesn’t take into account the cancellation of the 65-game preseason and the reduction in the number of traditional training-camp practices. “There is simply no basis on which to conclude that the reduction in missed time injuries had anything to do with the elimination of the in-person offseason program,” the memo explains. “In fact, several types of injuries — especially those to the lower extremities — were up in the first four weeks of the regular season in 2020.”
Second, the league points out that, as to the claim that there were 52 fewer concussions in the 2020 season as compared to 2019, only eight concussions happened during the 2019 offseason program. The playing of 65 fewer games and the reduction in traditional practices helps account for the drop in the concussions.
Third, as to the contention that all categories of lower-extremity injuries fall within the five-year average, the NFL explains lower-extremity strains (particularly calf strains and adductor strains) increased in 2020.
Fourth, regarding the union’s contention that the number of ACL tears in 2020 falls within the five-year average, the NFL explains that more players suffered torn ACLs in 2020 than in any of the five prior seasons — and that the players suffered 33 percent more ACL tears in 2020 than the average number of ACL tears from 2015 through 2019.
The NFLPA has recommended that players refrain from the voluntary portion of the offseason program. In addition to citing pandemic concerns, the union has pointed to the reduction in injuries to support the boycott. Multiple teams and players have cited those statistics when issuing statements indicating that they won’t be participating in the offseason program.